ECI Insurance needs your vote by October 31 to win $10,000 for the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma. Read about their amazing dedication to leading the fight against hunger in central and western Oklahoma.
Since opening its first warehouse in 1980, the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma has pursued a single purpose: providing meals to Oklahomans living with hunger. Over the years it has expanded its reach well beyond Oklahoma City to become the largest hunger-relief 501(c)(3) nonprofit in the state.
Most of those the Regional Food Bank serves are chronically hungry children, seniors living on limited incomes and families struggling to make ends meet. The Regional Food Bank distributes on average 50 million pounds of food a year to more than 1,300 community-based organizations that collaborate to distribute the food in 53 counties across central and western Oklahoma.
Steady growth over four decades
According to the USDA, Oklahoma is currently the fourth hungriest state in the nation, with 14.7% of the state’s households experiencing hunger.
The situation was equally dire four decades ago, when a group of concerned Oklahoma City citizens formed a task force to tackle the problem of rampant hunger. The group ended up founding the Regional Food Bank, opening its first 10,000-square-foot warehouse in the middle of what is now Scissortail Park in downtown Oklahoma City.
The Regional Food Bank almost immediately saw demand outstripping its capacity – particularly when it came to food storage. It responded by expanding its space in stages, introducing a second 14,000-square-foot warehouse in 1981 and a 37,000-square-foot headquarters in 1987. In 2000, the organization moved to a brand new 90,000-square-foot distribution center.
“We had to shift into disaster mode when the pandemic began, knowing not only that there’d be a greater demand for services, but that we needed to integrate public health measures into our work to keep everyone safe.”
–Stacy Dykstra, Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma CEO
Distributing food became increasingly vital – and challenging – during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We had to shift into disaster mode when the pandemic began,” says the nonprofit’s CEO Stacy Dykstra, “knowing not only that there’d be a greater demand for services, but that we needed to integrate public health measures into our work to keep everyone safe.”
In April 2020, the Regional Food Bank distributed 6.2 million pounds of food, a new record for a single month.
Partnering with communities to deliver food – and hope
The Regional Food Bank doesn’t do it alone. Sourcing, storing and then distributing all this food involves the contributions of more than 100 employees, more than a thousand partnering organizations and an army of volunteers.
Piedmont-based ECI Insurance has repeatedly thrown its support behind the nonprofit’s cause, contributing food during drives and giving a helping hand when schedules allow. During its most recent day of volunteering, ECI staff helped prepare 3,252 meals for school children, seniors and those unable to leave their homes.
“The staff at the Regional Food Bank are always helpful and supportive,” says Kara Anderson, certified insurance service representative (CISR) at ECI. “Each volunteer experience has been gratifying and enlightening.”
That ability to guide and support volunteers and organizations serving its vision is what makes the Regional Food Bank so effective at not only addressing the most pressing need – getting food to residents who need it in central and western Oklahoma communities – but targeting the root causes of food insecurity.
“The staff at the Regional Food Bank are always helpful and supportive. Each volunteer experience has been gratifying and enlightening.”
– Kara Anderson, CISR at ECI
In 2012, for example, the Regional Food Bank launched its Food & Resource Center Program, which gives Oklahomans facing hunger the option to select the foods they want in a grocery-store-like setting while offering supportive services and other resources that can help them become more economically secure.
There are currently 15 of these Food & Resource Centers in 12 Oklahoma counties – filling pantries and connecting residents with resources for a brighter, more secure future.
Double the Regional Food Bank’s award
If your agency volunteers with a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, learn how you can win a Make More Happen Award here.